The President’s View: Committed to the Future

On the 12th of April 2018, Federal President Steinmeier launched our university’s anniversary year at the Herkulessaal of Münchner Residenz: precisely 150 years earlier – on this memorable Easter Sunday in 1868 – Ludwig II. King of Bavaria signed the founding charter of today’s Technical University of Munich. And this TUM includes all of us!

Back then, as well as today, it was all about the people. And how lucky we were in this regard, already in the founding year of 1868! In addition to the 23-year-old king there was the 26-year-old engineer – that innovative Carl Linde, one of our pioneers. Soon, Linde would invent the cooling principle vulgo fridge. A large brewery in Munich housed the world’s first refrigerator and with Linde’s Ice Machine AG, the first spin-off from a university was under way. It seems that entrepreneurship has been in our genes right from the start! Over the past 20 years, our research has resulted in hundreds of start-ups that currently provide over 15,000 jobs – a result to be proud of on top of our internationally recognised research accomplishments, which, in combination with our achievements in education, constitute the valuable ‘TUM brand’.

Where do we go from here?

As a technical university we have to serve society. Consequently, we are committed to driving the innovation progress in scientific fields that promise to improve people’s lives, and how we live together in the long term. That is why we want to shape the important topics of the future at the frontline of research. Thus, we opened the Munich School of Robotics and Machine Intelligence (MSRM) in our anniversary year. It is breaking new ground in making machine-based assistance systems – i.e. robots – more agile and ‘smarter’. With MSRM, TUM draws its many years of cutting-edge research in Robotics and Artificial Intelligence under one roof. As its founding director we were able to enlist first-class scientist and TUM Alumni Sami Haddadin (Diploma Electrical and Computer Engineering 2005, Master Computer Science 2009). Recently, he was awarded the Innovation Prize of the Federal President and the German Research Association’s prestigious Leibniz Prize. Our congratulations accompany his work at TUM.

A digital future

If you want to shape the future, there is no way around digitalisation. Not only will TUM itself become digitalised and connected in its structures and working methods, we also ensure that our young talents receive the best education possible so that they will be able to master the challenges of the digital world. We recently opened the new building for the TUM Campus in Heilbronn. Here, students from the field of Management and Technology are being trained. The focus is on researching the economic change through digitisation, especially in the case of family businesses and technology start-ups. With the Heilbronn-Franken region, we are opening up a technologically leading scene of the German medium-sized companies that is unparalleled. In our anniversary year we have launched the Munich School for Data Science (MUDS). Under the assistance of powerful computer architectures and algorithms, digitised research produces immense amounts of data, which has great potential – for example for Biomedicine, one of our strong research domains. In order to make ‘big data’ usable, however, the data must be mastered and interpreted. To this end, we are training the next generation of researchers.

Interdisciplinarity as a key competence

No discipline is able to answer the increasingly complex technical questions alone behind closed doors. Our task is to create the best conditions for the different technical disciplines and cultures to work together. At TUM, we have early on focused on the interdisciplinary relationships of the sciences and the impending reorganisation of our internal structure – schools and integrative research centres – will powerfully perpetuate this development.

Yet, connecting the disciplines also requires vigorous internationalisation; in our case this means connecting our home with the world. Thus, after 20 years of consistently working on developing the Asian region, we have once again turned our focus back to Europe: with the Imperial College London, a European flagship partnership at top-level was established in the anniversary year. In the medium term, we are aiming for a legally independent TUM.London, based on the model of TUM Asia in Singapore. Because, if you can do Singapore, you can do London and send a visible signal right into the middle of the unfortunate Brexit! As a leading technical university, we also assume responsibility for the development needs of the African continent. Strong African education, research and innovation systems will play a decisive role in the long-desired goal of global social coherence. For that reason, we have used the anniversary year to set up the initiative TUM.Africa. TUM already has around 150 projects and exchange agreements with institutions in 20 African countries.

My time at TUM

Not only TUM is looking back on a successful time. I have also earned my diploma in Chemistry here in 1971. In 1985, I was allowed to succeed my teacher, the great chemist and Nobel Prize winner Ernst Otto Fischer, on his chair at TUM. For the past 24 years, I have directed the fortunes of this university as its president. TUM is my academic home, and its future is close to my heart.

That is why I am very happy that Thomas Hofmann – also TUM Alumni (PhD in Chemistry 1995, Habilitation 1998) – will succeed me in a few months, a brilliant prospect for our alma mater. He is a stroke of luck for TUM and the academic landscape in Germany. He has what it takes to lead our university seamlessly into a bright future while placing his own accents. Please support him, just as you have always been my benevolent, loyal companions!

Bound in sincere friendship to you I remain

Wolfgang A. Herrmann

President 1995 – 2019 Alumni Chemistry 1971